Ethiopia Opens Pandora's Box

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We learned that General John Abizaid, the commander of the United States forces overseeing American military operations in a 27-country region, from the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, to South and Central Asia, covering much of the Middle East, arrived in Addis Ababa on December 4th to meet the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.

Officially, the trip was a courtesy call to an ally. Three weeks later, however, Ethiopian forces crossed into Somalia.

As I see it, the meeting between General John Abizaid and Meles Zenawi was just the final handshake for things more sinister to come. This has already been proved correct with the American air strikes, logistic support, and military co-operation between the president of Ethiopia and America, fuelled by mutual concern about the rise of the Islamists in Somalia—so-called “suspected al-Qaida operatives�.

The United States also made available satellite information and intelligence which they had received from friendly Somali clans. We then saw the entry into the waters of Somalia the massive aircraft carrier Dwight Eisenhower. This has to be the world’s greatest example yet of a sledge hammer to crack a walnut.

America's renewed interest in the Horn of Africa dates from November 2002 when the United States military established its joint task force in Djibouti, now the base for several thousand troops, including the crack special operations forces. What is now called “under-the-radar approach� was necessitated by the State Department's opposition to any type of military intervention in Somalia. 

Until the middle of last year, diplomats remained hopeful of negotiations between the Somali government and the Islamic Courts Union-inside Sudan. It is pretty certain that Meles Zenawi invaded Somalia, with United States connivance, to divert attention at home from the consequences of last year's election rigging in Ethiopia.

We well remember the high number of protesters killed by the Ethiopian army in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in the country with not a murmur of protest from Washington where leadership is more dedicated to overthrowing the government of Sudan.

Can’t Zenawi see that by invading Somalia with American assistance, he’s giving respectability to the arbitrary actions of a country that no longer recognizes any restraints to its single minded pursuit of its own self interest? We have already seen the arrogant deception of the United Nations with the famous barefaced lies intended to give authenticity to its intention to invade Iraq, and then when the UN refused to authorize such an invasion, it went ahead anyway.

Later, to deflect attention from the unimaginable failure to plan for the wholly foreseeable post war tensions, the attention of the world media was directed at Darfur where what was needed was some prompting of African diplomatic negotiations not a huge American inspired hostile public relations exercise involving their own banking and pension funds organizations, internationally known retired old pop singers and, self interest again, their oil barons supporting the lethal dollar the rebel leaders fighting a legitimate sovereign government.

Today at the assembly in Addis Ababa of all the African leaders we shall soon see which ones are in the pay of various world powers seeking mineral rights and oil. Which one of these leaders speaks on behalf of their African citizens?

It is important for the African Union not to be fooled into sending troops to Somalia, because such a peacekeeping force will ultimately legitimize the American Ethiopian invasion. Of course, it is necessary to restore peace and order to Somalia. But the African Union will be wise to acknowledge that the Somalis are fearless fighters, who often call other Black non-Muslim Africans “adon� or slave.

During my time serving in Africa we were never able to change them. In 1994 they disarmed an entire battalion of Zimbabwean blue helmets, looted their weapons and sent them walking back to Mogadishu in their underpants. Most of us who worked in Africa recalled this and if I remember rightly, the Pakistanis got similar treatment and this was at a time when a force of 30,000 strong American-lead UN blue helmets were there. Never underestimate a Somali.

The Ethiopian invasion of a foreign country and the United States air strikes have made heroes of the Somali militants among the Jihadis across the world, and probably endangers once again the cities and citizens of those governments supporting the invasion. The Pentagon will have its own reasons, no doubt, and a long term plan with an eye on China and its increasing interest in the developing world’s mineral and oil wealth. In the Horn of Africa in October 2002 the United States dispatched troops to its newly established military base at camp Le Monier, a former French Foreign Legion outpost in neighboring Djibouti, which has become its centre of operations in the area, transferred from the Marine Corps to the American Navy. Last July, the Djibouti's government announced a lease agreement to expand their camp from 88 acres to some 500 acres—we can expect that they are there for ever.

In January 2006 the Fifth Fleet’s guided missile destroyer Winston S. Churchill, in a symbolic show of force, seized a pirate ship off the coast but also let us know that their missiles covered a vast region of the east coast. Meanwhile Washington cultivated the transitional government of Somalia then in quarrelsome existence which even had its own American citizen – Hussein Mohamed Aideed, son of the late Mohamed Farah Aideed of “Blackhawk Down� fame–as a war lord. It was a government that had been formed in exile yet it was quick to award a $50 million contract approved between it and a private United States security company to patrol the coast.

Now we have seen in recent days Washington working with the invading mainly Christian Ethiopian army to topple the Somali government headed by the successful Islamic Courts Union. Last year the Islamic Courts Union took over most of Somalia from the corrupt gun-toting warlords and brought some order and the restoration of commerce to Mogadishu, Kismayo and other cities and implemented harsh Sharia law.

It certainly received considerable support, especially from the business community as an alternative to feuding warlords. It seems unlikely that America can do much better—but then in this century is it still the America we once loved and believed we could trust?

We all should take an interest in the Addis Ababa Summit and to see if Africa is still a proud free continent. My personal feeling is that the great Pan-African hero, Kwame Nkrumah, will turn over in horror within his grave.

Astles, once an advisor in the Idi Amin regime in Uganda, lives in Portugal. It's widely believed that the book and the movie, "The Last King Of Scotland," is based on his life.

Pan-Africans who oppose Ethiopia's occupation of Somalia can make their protest known via phone or e-mail to the African Union: Ms Habiba Mejri-Cheikh, Spokesperson.  Head of Information and Communication. African Union Commission. P.O. Box 3243 Addis Ababa ETHIOPIA.  DL: 00 251 115 514555. Sdt: 00 251 115 517700 ext 121

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